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          Dealing with Anger and Guilt after a Suicide

          May 30, 2003

          After losing a loved one to suicide, it isn’t uncommon to struggle with conflicting feelings of anger and grief. Dr. Phil has advice on dealing with these painful and troubling emotions.

          • Know that it’s normal to feel anger toward the loved one who committed suicide at the same time that you feel overwhelming grief over the loss. They made a devastating choice that will impact the rest of your life, leaving you to pick up the pieces and deal with the aftermath.
          • It’s also normal to feel guilty after catching yourself feeling anger toward the deceased.
          • Ask yourself whether you love or hate the person you lost. Do you miss him/her or are you glad he/she is gone? Of course, you love and miss him/her. That’s because these emotions are based on who your loved one was.
          • Do you feel guilty about loving and missing your loved one? Of course not. What you feel guilty about is your anger. The question is, are you angry at the person who committed suicide or are you angry about the choice he/she made to end his/her life, leaving you behind with the legacy of pain and hurt?
          • Chances are, you are angry at the choice, not the person ” and it was your loved one who made that choice, not you. Had you known that he/she was going to commit suicide, you would have done what you could to stop it.
          • Accept that you couldn’t change what happened and did the best you could with what you knew at the time. If you are burdening yourself with misplaced guilt, you are in effect confining yourself to an emotional prison.
          • The bars of an emotional prison are made out of guilt, anger, bitterness and resentment. But what people don’t understand is that that kind of prison locks from the inside. There isn’t anybody that can let you out of that prison except for you.
          • You wake up every morning and choose what to think. If you have chosen to carry the burden of guilt, shame, anger and hurt everywhere you go, what would happen if you decided, “I can’t change what happened. So I’d better accept it and recognize that the life that I have today, tomorrow and the next day is going to be a function of what I choose”?
          • Give yourself permission to say, “It’s OK to be mad at what he/she did.” Because it was not OK. Then get back in the game. That’s the bottom line. You experienced a devastating loss, but you didn’t choose it. Give yourself permission to move on.

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